Over the years, lots of very interesting guests stopped by Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to visit the iconic children's show host.
Keith David, Lou Ferigno, and Yo Yo Ma all had memorable appearances on the classic PBS show, but Fred Roger's favorite segment of all time didn't involve any big stars. It was just him and a 10-year-old boy named Jeff Erlanger talking about life.
Erlanger became a quadriplegic at a young age, after a tumor grew too close to his spinal cord. He learned to use an electric wheelchair as a child, and Mr. Rogers invited him on the show to talk about what that was like. Their segment together quickly became of the show's most famous moments.
Nothing extraordinary happened, but audiences were moved by how honestly and openly the little boy connected with Mr. Rogers. It was also a great example of how Fred Rogers used his show to discuss serious topics that other children's programs avoided.
At the end of their time together the pair sang "It's You I Like" together, and Mr. Rogers told Erlanger "I hope you'll come to visit again." But he had no idea the young boy would take him up on his offer almost 2 decades later.
Brace yourself, because this clip will make you cry.
In 1991, Mr. Rogers was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, and there was a special surprise planned for the ceremony.
While he hadn't seen Erlanger since 1981, Mr. Rogers recognize him right away, and jumped out of his seat to join him on stage. "I'm so glad to see you," he said, "thank you for coming!" But the host had to hold back tears as Erlanger read his introduction.
“When you tell people that ‘It’s you I like,’ you really mean it," he said. "Tonight, I want to let you know on behalf of millions of kids and grown ups, that it’s you I like.” The moment got a standing ovation, and there couldn't have been a dry eye in the entire audience.
Erlanger and Mr. Rogers kept in touch after the ceremony, and it seems like the host's message of kindness and compassion meant a lot to the young man. Erlanger worked in city politics in Madison, Wisconsin, and as an advocate for people with disabilities.
Sadly, Erlanger died in 2007 at age 36, just 4 years after Mr. Rogers passed away. Hadda Sharapan, who worked alongside Fred Rogers at his Family Communications company, says the TV host always remembered his time with Erlanger fondly.
"Anytime Fred was asked, 'What was a moment that stands out?' Over all those years, that was the one he pointed to," she told the Post-Gazette.
Share this story if you loved Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood!